Friday, May 21, 2010

Movie Review: Shrek Forever After

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Dreamworks has given us the fourth and hopefully final Shrek in Shrek Forever After. You know that a series has run its course when they have to revert to the It's a Wonderful Life storyline. I stayed through the end of the credits and while there was no easter egg at the end, there were images recapping some of the escapades of Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona through the entire series. So unless someone can come up with a really good script, I think that all the air has been let out of this balloon or in the the world of Far Far Away, all the air has been let out of this frog.

The original Shrek was fresh and original. The pop culture references, the pop songs, the lampooning of Disney. Who can forget, "Please keep off of the grass, shine your shoes, wipe your....face, Duloc is.... Duloc is.... Duloc is a perrrr-fffffect place" with the dolls that look like they were imported out of "It's a Small World". The world of the fractured fairytale. We loved it.

With the fourth in the series, the shine has gone off this penny. The penny is still the penny, it has value, but it's just not as exciting anymore. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas return giving their voices to Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and Puss in Boots respectively. Julie Andrews and John Cleese reprise their roles as the Queen and King of Far Far Away. The new comers this time are Jane Lynch, John Hamm and Craig Robinson voicing Gretched, Brogan and Cookie, leaders in the Orge Rebellion. They are rebelling against Rumpelstiltskin voiced by Walt Dohrn who had some writing responsibilities for this and Dexter's Laboratory and Sponge Bob Square Pants on Nickelodeon.

The animation was solid. I saw the 2D version, not the 3D or IMAX 3D but it was pretty apparent where the 3D would be used mostly for the depth rather than coming out at you. I imagine that the chase scene with Shrek and the witches might look pretty good in 3D. Since the original there is more detailing in the textures. Skin and items like clothing had a bit more nuanced appearance. There were a couple of shots where it became really apparent that the computer is able to put in those details that most of the audience won't catch.

The movie opens with a brief retelling of the original Shrek with a Rest of the Story. Afraid that their daughter might not be rescued, the King and Queen go to Rumpelstiltskin to arrange for someone to rescue their daughter from the Dragon's Keep in exchange for them giving up the kingdom. As evidenced by the first movie, that didn't happen. Shrek ruined Rumpels' plan by saving Princess Fiona.

Jump to current times. Shrek has settled into the rut. Wake up, feed the three children, take out the garbage, fix broken things, you! He wishes he could go back to the old days when he was a feared ogre. In steps Rumpel who is down on his luck and offers Shrek the ability to get a day of the old ways by trading a day of his life. Shrek agrees and signs the contract. Things go back to the way Shrek would have liked it but he discovers that things aren't quite right. Witches are over running the place, Far Far Away looks like a dump, Donkey doesn't recognize him and there are wanted posters with Fiona's picture on them. Turns out the day that Shrek gave up was the day he was born. Insert hand hitting forehead sound here followed by a "Doh"!

To break the contract Shrek must obtain what the other fairy tales talk about. But how can he do this when no one knows about him and his past. The remaining 45 or so minutes of the one hour and 37 minute movie shows us how he intends to get his life back, if he can. Unlike It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey gets his life back by wishing and wanting his old life back, Shrek must accomplish the task or disappear forever. You can't get more dramatic than that can you?

Fiona and Donkey
at Universal Studios Florida
There are some new characters, but most of the movie involves the old jokes that have been used before. I mean really, Pinocchio's running gag in all the movies of trying to get something by telling a lie and having his nose grow is a yawner at this point. Heck, they even put it into audioanimatronic form at Universal's Shrek 4D preshows in both Hollywood and Orlando. No sense in beating us over the head or poking us in the eye with that dead branch. As I write this, I have on my Angry Wig!

Kids will enjoy the action of the movie and the jokes. Adults will laugh but not as much as in the original or number two. If you see the movie in the theaters, I'd say matinee or you could wait for the Blu-ray. Like all other Shrek movies, this one has a PG rating for crude humor, brief language and mild action.

While there is no easter egg at the very end of the movie as I mentioned earlier, stay through the credits to watch those recap scenes; if they are as I hope, the end of the Shrek series, it's a nice way to recap Shrek's adventures. The idea that the credits are on a scroll of paper is cool too!

The Movie Monkey

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